CIC: PMO is directed to transfer the appellant’s RTI application to the concerned Public Authority u/s 6(3) - CIC expects that a petitioner shall generally approach the concerned Public Authority where the matter exclusively relates to that Authority
1. The appellant filed RTI application dated 12.05.2014 seeking information relating to submissions “Foreclosure charges of banks on prepayment of loans now completely waived: should be applicable for NBFC’s as well”. CPIO filed response dated 06.06.2014. The appellant filed first appeal dated 16.06.2014 before the First Appellate Authority (FAA). FAA filed response dated 04.06.2014.The appellant filed a second appeal dated 15.07.2014 with the Commission.
2. The appellant and the respondent both participated in the hearing personally.
3. The appellant requested that respondent be directed to transfer his RTI application under section 6(3) of the RTI Act to Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance for response to query no. 1 where submission on which information on action taken is sought was forwarded.
4. The respondent stated that the appellant vide letter dated 06.06.2014 has been informed that the his letter dated 08.05.2014 was forwarded for action as appropriate to the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India, New Delhi. The respondent stated that the action taken on his aforesaid letter has been informed to the appellant. The respondent stated the notings/ correspondence/documents as asked for by him in his RTI regarding action taken on his letter by concerned Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, has not been made available with them. The respondent stated that in this regard appellant may file separate RTI application to the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance.
5. The appellant stated that there can be more than one submission made at PMO on the same date, and this is the case, especially with undersigned petitioner. How can a petitioner know about the public authority to which submissions are forwarded till headings of submissions made are also mentioned on PMO communications intimating forwarding of submissions? Therefore, since petitioner in fact really is unaware of the public authority to which submissions are forwarded , it becomes necessary for CPIO to transfer RTI petition to concerned public authority where submissions on which information on action taken is sought.
6. The decision regarding the scope of Section 6(1) and 6(3) of the RTI Act has been delivered by a larger bench of this Commission vide its decision CIC/AT/A/2008/01280 dt 22.9.2009 (Shri Ketan Kantilal Modi Vs Central Board of Excise and Customs). The appellant, in the said case, had sought information held by the field formation offices of the CBEC. CPIO CBEC directed him to approach the concerned CPIOs. Aggrieved by the said order, an appeal was filed before the Commission which was heard by a larger bench and the relevant paras of the said decision are reproduced below:
“52. The arrangement of these two subsections of Section 6 leads to the inference that there are certain definitive expectations of due diligence from an information seeker ⎯ about identifying the public authority where the requested information is known to be held. Section 6(3) casts an obligation on the CPIO to transfer an RTI application filed under Section 6(1) to another public authority where the former knows the information is held ⎯ a fact which a petitioner was not expected to know given the circumstances. In other words, Section 6(3) is the exception to the general rule contained in Section 6(1) that a request for information should be filed before a public authority, which holds the information. The decision whether to transfer an RTI application within the meaning of Section 6(3) is to be the CPIO’s given the circumstances of the matter. For example, a public authority may be known to be holding a certain set of information but due to internal arrangement that information might have been given under the control of some other public authority, which fact might not have been known to the information seeker. The CPIO of the public authority receiving the RTI application may then helpfully transfer the request to the public authority who now controls the information. There may be several such instances where an applicant may file his request under a bonafide impression that a certain public authority holds certain information, which may not be a valid impression. The CPIO then can help the petitioner by transferring his application to the public authority which may be concerned with the information.
54. We, therefore, hold that a petitioner is obliged under Section 6(1) to file his RTI application before the CPIO of the public authority which is the “concerned public authority”, which holds the information within the meaning of Section 2(j) “right to information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to- (i) inspection of work, documents, records; (ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records; (iii) taking certified samples of material; (iv) obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device; of the Act.
55. The decision to transfer an RTI application to another public authority under Section 6(3) is to be CPIO’s given the circumstances surrounding a particular request for information. These circumstances may vary from case to case and petition to petition and cannot be predetermined.
56. A public authority which does not hold or is not related to an information sought by a petitioner, will not be obliged to provide an answer to the petitioner only for the reason that that public authority was the Apex body or the nodal office of others subordinate public authorities. Such a public authority ⎯ such as the CBEC or the Ministry of Finance/ Department of Revenue ⎯ when it receives an RTI application for disclosure of an information which both the petitioner and the CBEC or the Ministry know is held by subordinate offices such as the Commissionerates, then the public authority (CBEC or the Ministry) may inform the petitioner that it was not the holder of the information and hence not the ‘concerned public authority’. In the alternative, such a public authority may choose to help the petitioner by transferring his request to the subordinate public authorities where the information was known or expected to be held. This latter decision is to be of the public authority given the circumstances and the conditions surrounding the petition and the case. It cannot be claimed by the petitioner as a matter of right ⎯ a substitute for his own due diligence, i.e. to file the petition under Section 6(1) appropriately before the public authority which is known to hold the information requested and, more importantly, which the petitioner himself knows holds the information.
61. It is further directed that in case CPIO, CBEC transfers appellant’s RTI application electronically to the subordinate Commissionerates, the latter shall process these information requests as independent requests under Section 6(1) and collect from the petitioner all requisite fees including the application fee as if the application were made independently by him to that public authority subordinate to the CBEC.”
7. It is, therefore, the expectation of the Commission that a petitioner shall generally approach the concerned Public Authority where the matter exclusively relates to that Authority. It would also be premature to ask a Public Authority on action taken on a RTI which has just been transferred to that Ministry under section 6(3) of the Act.
8. In view of the above, the respondent is directed to transfer the appellant’s RTI application in respect query no. 1 to concerned Public Authority viz Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India, New Delhi, within 30 days of this order.
9. The appellant may approach the CPIO of concerned public authority for the information sought by him. The appeal is disposed of. Copy of decision be given free of cost to the parties.
(Radha Krishna Mathur)
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: Mr. Subhash Chandra Agarwal v. Prime Minister’s Office in Appeal No.CIC/RM/A/2014/004596